Jane’s Information Group
Talk about falling back. Many people have members of their family that were military equipment aficionados. If so, they might have been familiar with Jane’s Information Group. From their beginning in 1898 (Yep, you read that right), Jane’s has been THE source for unclassified military hardware information.
Jane’s published such books as Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, Jane’s Fighting Ships, Jane’s Military Communications, Jane’s World Air Forces, and Jane’s World Navies. These publications gave military buffs a wellspring of information on their favorite subjects. Imagine if you could base a flight or combat simulation game on all that knowledge. If only..
Jane’s Combat Simulations
Well Electronic Arts did more than wonder, they put that data to use. After purchasing Jane’s licensing rights in 1995, they produced a selection of Uber detailed games entitled: Jane’s Combat Simulations.
With this treasure trove of knowledge, EA and their partners had the advantage of the all the information that Jane’s supplies. By using this data, EA was able to create simulations of staggering detail. Their instruction manuals alone were a book onto themselves. So let’s “Flashback” to see some of what Jane’s and EA brought to the PC.
Longbow was the 2nd simulation made under the Jane’s license but it was one of the most well received. It featured one of the most authentic flight models for a helicopter for its time. In fact, every aspect of the electronics systems were meticulously detailed. Weapons had realistic operational ranges and limits. While all friendly and enemy units were based strictly on their real-life counterparts. It was that attention to detail that would become one of the major selling points for Jane’s.
AH-64D Longbow was critically acclaimed and won five different 1996 Best Simulator of the Year awards from various publications. In addition, an expansion disc called Flashpoint Korea was released. Flashpoint won PCGamers Expansion Pack of the Year award and added to the gameplay. Between the game and expansion pack, AH-64D set the standard for helicopter simulation.
Any fan of Top Gun was familiar with the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Strike Eagle. With its double tail and sleek appearance, it was inevitable that EA and Jane’s would bring this iconic fighter to their stable of simulations.
Released in 1998 for the PC, it featured all the details that had made Jane’s Combat Simulations a favorite for flight sim fans.
Jane’s F-15 was the most realistic flight simulator for the F-15E. In keeping with their reputation for attention to detail, the developers went above and beyond. They made sure every knob, switch, button and light in the cockpit worked as it does on the real fighter jet. However, there were some details on the F-15 that even Jane’s was not privy to. Because of this, it is not a perfect emulation. But it is as close as anyone has come to it.
F-15 was well received critically but not to the level of Longbow. It was nominated for numerous simulation of the year awards. Unfortunately, it had the bad luck of coming out at the same time as another highly detailed sim: Microprose/Spectrum Holobytes Falcon 4.0. If it were not for that, it would have fared even better. But fans of the F-15 had THEIR simulator, no matter what the “experts” said.
As aforementioned, Jane’s did not just detail aircraft. It also researched all manner of naval vessels as well. With that in mind, EA decided to put out a game for those who would like to micromanage an entire fleet. Thus in May 1999, they introduced Fleet Command.
Using the Jane’s Database
Developed by Sonalysts Inc., the game licensed parts of Jane’s Information Group’s military information database, which was used as an in-game “Jane’s Library.” This reference material was made available to the player while in-game.
Fleet Command was a real-time tactics game which played as a realistic military simulator. In esscence, it only involves managing the resources of available weapons and the fuel of airborne aircraft. Much of the game and mission events however, are presented in the form of full-motion video sequences.
Fleet Command was also well received. So much so that the United States Naval Academy actually had the game installed in its computer labs. The Navy used the program to introduce prospective students to the concepts of fleet level decision making. As for the game itself, it was nominated for the 1999 Wargame of the Year, losing out to Close Combat III: The Russian Front. Regardless, it was another success in the Jane’s Combat Simulation line.
Other games produced
These were just a few of the games released under the Jane’s banner. AH-64D Longbow 2 (sequel to AH-64D) was released in 1997 and was received even more positively than its predecessor. The game received 6 Game of the Year awards.
In keeping with its Naval simulations, EA released 688(I) Hunter/Killer. This was their nuclear class submarine simulator. It was the follow up to their original 688 Attack Sub which was released in 1989. (I still own this floppy disc based game).
Released in 1997, 688(I) was considered one of the best submarine simulators available. In addition, because of the popularity of F-15. Jane’s F/A-18 was released in early 2000. It built on what made F-15 successful while improving graphics.
All Good Things
But as always, all good things come to an end. After a poorly received WWII Fighters game in 2000, EA decided to end their simulation series later that same year. However, their body of work set the bar for detail and realism. For many fans, it was as close as you could come to actually flying these high dollar aircraft. If you are intrigued, many of these games can still be downloaded. Go ahead and try your hand at some of the most realistic combat sims of their time.
Have you ever played any of the Jane’s Combat series? If so, what were your impressions? Share your remembrances with us at GeekVibesNation.
I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 17 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.